TL;DR: Just take me right to the Reptile Podcast! CLICK HERE
If you have a passion for animals, then you are going to love this podcast! This show brings all members of the animal community, from pet hobbyists to wildlife experts, together under one roof to discuss anything and everything animal related. Listen to experts talk about reptiles, mammals, fish, birds and everything in between with the topics ranging from breeding, pet husbandry, scientific research, wildlife conservation and more! Dillon Perron, the podcast’s host, is also the creator of the blog and YouTube Channel, Animals at Home.
If you are looking for a reptile podcast to listen to than The Animals at Home Podcast is what you are looking for. Dillon Perron, the host, and creator interviews a diverse range of animal and reptile experts. The show has a tilt towards reptiles and the reptile hobby but Dillon makes it clear that this is an animal podcast, not just a reptile podcast. Guests will and have been featured from many different areas of expertise.
For more information on Dillon, check out the first episode:
Each episode runs about 60 mins in length. Within the hour, you can expect to not only learn fascinating facts about reptiles, but you will also learn the stories behind those who work with animals, whether that be on a hobbyist or academic basis.
How to Listen:
The Animals at Home Podcast is quickly becoming one of the most popular reptile podcasts available and it can be streamed and downloaded in a number of ways:
If you are someone that likes to listen to podcasts on your way to work, then choose your favorite podcasting app to listen to the show!
If you’d like to watch the video version of the show, then check out The Animals at Home YouTube Channel:
Why Listen to this Reptile Podcast?
Besides the interesting content and guests featured on The Animals at Home Podcast, there is even a better reason to engage in the content!
Animals at Home is an Offical Sponsor of The Amazon Rainforest Conservancy (A.R.C). This means a portion of the profits generated by the Animals at Home Podcast, Youtube Channel and Blog is donated to the charity with the goal of protecting the Amazon rainforest.
Central American Boa care is really not any different than their Columbian cousins. There is a wide range of Central American boa localities, each having their own distinct color, pattern and adult size range. Typically the Central American boas are smaller than Columbian boas making them appealing to people who want a boa but want also want something that will stay quite small.
Common Columbian boas and Central American boas are the same species (Boa constrictor imperator or just Boa imperator). These are a separate species from your true Red Tail Boa Constrictors (Boa constrictor constrictor)
As a complete generalization Central American boas will range from adult sizes of 3-5 feet in length. Island boas such as the Hog Island and Crawl Cay localities tend to be quite small and mainland boas such as the Costa Rican boa tend to be larger.
If you want an in-depth description of each Central Amercian locale along with any variations in care for each, I would highly recommend Vin Russo’s book. The Complete Boa Constrictor:
Vin goes into great detail regarding each specific locality of Central America Boa as well as any differences in care. You can find my review of the book HERE.However, I will say most of Vin’s advice is relevant if you are trying to breed. If you are just looking for general Central American Boa care, then the care sheet below will work just fine!
Central American Boa Care
The enclosure you choose should be at least the length of your snake when fully stretched out. Longer is even better provided you have ample hiding spots! Most likely you will require an enclosure that is somewhere between 4′-5′ long and somewhere between 18″-24″ wide. Central American Boas are light-bodied and many of them are keen on climbing! I recommend providing at least 18″-24″ of climbing space.
There are plenty of caging options n the market these days, but PVC enclosures seem to be the most popular as they maintain humidity and heat nicely.
Animal Plasticshas some really nice options:
If you follow my YouTube Channelyou know I have built a few of my own cages as well. You can see the examples in the video below or visit my DIY Page.
I recommend having plenty of climbing branches and shelves too! Watch the video below to see who I built shelves for my Central American Boa (Winston) and secured climbing branches inside the enclosure.
This section is SO important! So important that it needed its own post completely. I wrote an entire, in-depth article regarding how to feed your boa constrictor, Boa constrictor feeding chart.
Long story short, people tend to WAY overfeed their boas! Again, the Central American boa care is not going to differ from a Columbian boa but please do your research! The article above will provide you with what you need to know.
I am intentionally leaving out specific feed routines and practices in this article because I’d like you to read the more in-depth article available.
Humidity requirements are fairly straightforward for Central American Boas. I try and keep the relative humidity between 60-80% in the summer and 50-60% in the winter. Your snake should shed in one complete piece if they shed in pieces you need to bump up your humidity.
This is another area where I personally believe people over-do i.e. keep their snakes too hot! Not too mention, some of the Central American localities can handle even cooler temperatures than their South American cousins. For example, in the wild Sonoran Desert boas are exposed to temperatures as low as 50°F in the winter months. As I said above, Vin Russo’s book goes into detail regarding temperatures for each locality but the general figures below will also work fine!
Summer (or year round):
Ambient warm side: 80-85°
Ambient cool side: 72-78°F
Winter (cooling off the temperatures during the winter is not necessary if you do make sure you also reduce meal frequency):
Hotspot (no hotspot at night): 85°F
Ambient warm side: 78°F
Ambient cool side and night time: 70-72°F
If you cool down your boa in the winter, make sure you change the temperatures gradually over several weeks.
You can use a heat mat, heat tape or even a radiant heat panel to maintain proper temperatures. You must use a thermostat! Read the article below to check out my favorite thermostats as well as how to properly set up your thermostat probe:
Your boa will tell you what you need to know if you observe them closely. They should oscillate between their warm hide and cool hide on a semi-regular basis (maybe once a week or once every 2 weeks). If they spend all their time on the cool side, I would consider cooling off the hotspot. If they spend all their time in the warm hide, I would but up your cool side ambient temperature.
In my experience, boas like somewhat cooler temperatures. My boas spend the majority of their time on the cool side (usually 72-74°F) and tend to only go to the warm side to shed and digest.
Central American boa constrictors do not have any specific light requirements but in my opinion, it is healthy to offer a regular photoperiod. I use LED strip lightingfor my boas and I connect it to an outlet timer with a 12 hour on/ 12 hour off cycle in the summer and a 10 hour on/ 14 hour off cycle in the winter.
There are plenty of great substrates to choose from! I personally like shredded aspen and coco-husk. Watch the video below or read the article for more information on the substrate.
Whether you live in an arid climate or you care for a species that requires a high level of humidity (such as a rainbow boa or amphibian species), you’ll certainly need to know how to increase humidity in a terrarium!
SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR MY VIDEO REVIEW OF SPHAGNUM MOSS
Sphagnum Moss is one of the best, natural ways you can increase your humidity levels.
Humidity vs Relative Humidity
Before we go any further it is important we understand what we are talking about!
Humidity: as you probably know is the term we use to describe the amount of water vapor in the air.
Relative Humidity: on the other hand, is the actual measurement of the amount of vapor in the air represented as a percentage of the amount needed to fully saturate the air at its current temperature.
Relative humidity is what you are working with when discussing humidity levels inside your terrarium. The reason it is “relative” is due to the fact that air is capable of holding different amounts of water vapor at different temperatures.
Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air as shown in this image below.
An equal volume of water vapor will result in different levels of relative humidity at different temperatures. Therefore it is important that you are trying to balance your reptile’s humidity levels after you have established the proper temperature parameters.
If you are looking for how to increase humidity in a terrarium… then here are the first two keys takeaways:
Higher relative humidity will require more water vapor in the air
You must ensure your temperatures are set properly for the species you care for before trying to establish proper humidity levels.
How to Measure: Best Hygrometer for Reptiles
Okay, so I understand what relative humidity is but how do you measure it? What is the best hygrometer for reptiles?
There are many digital hygrometers on the market, typically you can save money by buying one off of Amazonrather than your local pet store.
You have two options when it comes to hygrometers:
Inexpensive ($3-8), the two below are the ones I use (the white one seems to be more accurate, see below).Inexpensive hygrometers have two fairly serious faults. The first is that they are typically not that accurate and the second is over time they will become even more inaccurate as extended exposure to high humidity tends to damage the sensors.
Or expensive ($10-25). You’ll find high-quality hygrometers in the cigar hobby. Those guys are serious about there relative humidity! Cigar hygrometers are very accurate, can handle high humidity for a very long time and can be calibrated and recalibrated to maintain accuracy.
If Cheap Hygrometers are Inaccurate, Are they even worth it?
You don’t feel like spending the extra money on an expensive, more accurate hygrometer hey? I don’t blame you! I didn’t either. Fortunately, there is a way you can calibrate even the cheap units!
Instead of a ziplock bag, I used a Tupperware container like in this video:
Note: You need to wait the full 24 hours, as the video says. Not 6 like the wikiHow article says.
Your inexpensive hygrometer will not have a button to adjust the reading it gives you so it is just something you’ll have to keep in mind. For example, this was my result after calibrating my units:
This meant that the white hygrometer bang on but the black ones seem to read about 10-12 % high. There is nothing I can do to the black ones to make them display an accurate figure, instead, I just have to do some mental math every time I look at them.
NOTE: I redid this calibration about 1 year later and the white one then displayed 72% (i.e. 3 % low) and the black ones displayed 79% (4% high). As I said above, over time the inexpensive hygrometers will fluctuate in their accuracy.
How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium
There are several different ways you can increase humidity in your animal’s terrarium. Your goal should be to set your enclosure up in a way that the relative humidity stays within your animal’s requirements with little to no regular intervention.
In other words, you should not be fighting with your humidity levels on a regular basis. Things should be set up in a way that your humidity natural sits in the healthy range for your specific animal.
How to Increase Humidity in a Terrarium: Various Methods
The more ventilation you have the lower you relative humidity will be. If you have an animal that requires high levels of humidity than limited ventilation is in order.
My Brazilian Rainbow Boa enclosure only has eight vent holes, four of them are shown below:
This one is pretty straightforward! The larger the surface area of your water dish, the more evaporation, the more water vapor in the air of your terrarium. Some people like to but their water dish on the warm side of the enclosure to illicit more evaporation. In my opinion that encourages bacteria growth in the water dish.
I like to use large plastic containers for my water dishes (without the lid obviously):
These are great substrates but keep in mind there affects on your terrarium’s humidity is not permanent. They will slowly dry out over time and no longer provide as much moisture as they did right out of the bag.
Misting your terrarium is one of those controversial methods! Many people say you should not use misting as a way to maintain humidity (unless of course, you are using it for your animal’s drinking water).
Generally, people say to avoid this method for two reasons: 1) it implies that you have not done a great job setting up your enclosure so it can maintain proper humidity on its own and 2) it can lead to too much sitting-water in the terrarium.
“Anti-misters” definitely have a point! This is a method that should be used sparingly but I do think it has its place provided it is done properly. If you are like me and have to deal with an extremely arid climate then misting may be a necessity for you on occasion.
When I mist, I make sure to mix around the substrate while I do it. I am looking to create a slightly moistened substrate and that is it, not sopping wet!
Sphagnum moss for Snakes and other Critters!
Just recently I tried outsphagnum mossby Zoomed and loved it! It is a very easy (and reusable) product that holds moisture for a very long period of time! I added it to my Brazilian rainbow enclosure and it maintained a relative humidity of over 90% for more than 2 weeks straight without having to be re-moistened.
I highly recommend this product if you are needing a boost in your humidity levels. Watch my full video review below:
BSFL or black soldier fly larva are some of the best feeder insects available for your reptile. They are my go-to feeder for my giant day gecko. They are very easy to care for, extremely nutritious and can provide some great environmental enrichment when they turn into flies!
Watch the video below!
ALL BSFL are not made the same!
There are many different brands of black soldier fly larvae but the only brand I can recommend is Phoenix Worm.
Phoenix Worm feeds their BSFL an enriched grain-based diet which causes the larvae to be very high in calcium. You may be able to find other brands you are satisfied with but always I stick with Phoenix Worms
Why Choose BSFL?
Black soldier fly larvae produced by Phoenix Worm are a far superior feeder than most of the other common feeders available. The main reason for the difference is their nutritional makeup as you can see in the chart below.
BSFL (especially from Phoenix Worm) have a VERY high calcium to phosphorus ratio. This means you are not required to dust them before feeding!
You also do not have to gut load them. They can survive for weeks inside the tub you purchase them in. When I say you don’t have to gut load… I really mean— don’t gut load! Guting loading can cause your colony to die off and rot inside the container.
Ideally, you keep your container of BSFL at a temperature of around 50-60°F as this will slow down their life cycle considerably. In the winter months I keep my container on a window sill (it is very cold where I live) and in the summer I don’t worry about it. i.e. I just deal with the quicker life cycle.
Feeding BSFL to your Animal
When you first open your container of Phoenix Worm’s you’ll think: “what? the container is empty?” but if you dig around you will find plenty of worms!
Here is what one looks like up close:
When I am getting ready to feed my animal I dig out about 8-12 worms (larvae) and place them in a glass dish. The larvae don’t move around a ton but they do wriggle around enough to draw the attention of my gecko (and yours too probably).
And again, no need to dust with powdered supplements so once I have removed them from the container the feed dish can go directly into the enclosure!
Ruby loves these things!
Can you Feed Black Soldier Flies to Your Animal?
So, what happens when the larvae start to pupate?
Eventually (if you don’t go through your colony fast enough), the larvae will begin to pupate. BSF pupae look like this:
They are stiff, black, cacoon looking things. They still have essentially the same nutritional value as the larvae but they don’t move! Therefore, your animal will likely not eat them.
But, that doesn’t mean they are useless! When the larvae enter this phase of their life it means they are getting ready to metamorphose into the adult form: the black soldier fly!
Black soldier flies are great to feed your animal as it forces them to really hunt which is very fun to watch (click the video to see that in action). Every few days I collect any pupae I find in the BSFL container and I chuck them into the soil of my giant day gecko enclosure.
Over the next few weeks (sometimes months) the pupae will complete their life cycle and you’ll find a fly buzzing around the enclosure. Usually, they have fairly short lives… it typically takes my gecko about 3-5 minutes to grab them.
Watch the video below to watch a giant day gecko hunt down some black soldier flies!
See a pattern? Yep, pretty much every type of heat source should be controlled by a thermostat.
Why Use a Thermostat?
I don’t want to spend to much time writing about why a thermostat is necessary but here are the Cole Notes—Your reptile does not feel the temperature in the same way you do. Because of this, your animal can EASILY burn itself on a malfunctioning heat source… Google it… it’s horrible to see. Also, having an unregulated heat source is a fire hazard… you can Google that too if you like.
Best Thermostat for Reptiles: Types of Thermostats
There are two main types of common thermostats:
An “On/Off Switch” Thermostat
A Proportional Thermostat
On/Off Switch Thermostat:
This type of thermostat operates in the same way your room thermostat works by setting a minimum and a maximum temperature.
For example, if you want to maintain a hot spot of about 90°F you would set you the maximum temperature to 90°F. When the probe reads a temperature of 90°F the thermostat clicks the heat source OFF. The thermostat will also allow you to set a temperature for the heat to be switched back ON, typically 1-2° lower than the maximum temperature setting.
Typically On/Off Switch thermostats are relatively inexpensive, although due to the constant switching from On to Off they enviability wear out and break. I recommend checking your temperatures manually at least once per week (see below).
This type of thermostat is more advanced than the On/Off version above. A proportional thermostat operates by oscillating the electrical power being sent to the heat source.
In other words, it “smoothly” adjusts the heat source’s power to maintain a very stable heat. The heat source is on all the time but will go through waves of delivering more/less power.
These thermostats are usually quite expensive but for good reason. The quality is much higher than the On/Off thermostats and they are much more versatile. Typically they allow you to program in night drops and the really expensive ones allow you to run multiple heat sources with multiple probes. Definitely what you want if you have several enclosures in close quarters.
My Recommendations: Best Thermostat for Reptiles
Here is a list of thermostats I recommend because I personally use them. I will not recommend any “inexpensive” thermostats that I have not personally used.
•This was the first thermostat I had ever purchased and as I said in the ‘pros’ column, it does work as it should.
•But honestly, I only give this thermostat a 2 out of 5. The probe is annoying because it is so short and the tip is quite large.
Again, the thing functions but your dollars can go much further on one of the examples above.
If you are truly looking for THE BEST THERMOSTAT FOR REPTILES than these would be your answer! Here is a list of the two main proportional thermostats on the market. I do not have personal experience with them but they are both highly valued and widely used in the reptile hobby.
It is very important that the probe is kept outside of the enclosure (or if using a radiant heat panel the probe should be hovering in the air somewhere). If your animal has direct access to the probe i.e. if it’s on the floor, the temperature reading can be very inaccurate. This is because your animal can move the probe or even worse the probe could get wet and stop working.
NOTE: The temperature you set your thermostat to WILL NOT automatically equal the hotspot temperature inside the enclosure! Since the probe is between the heat source and the bottom of the enclosure, it will likely be reading a much higher temperature than the hotspot inside the enclosure is showing. This is because the heat has to penetrate the bottom floor of the enclosure meaning this is very dependent on the type of material your enclosure is made from.
The thermostats above are maintaining a hotspot inside their respective enclosures of about 90°F. As you can see I have had to overshoot the thermostat setting to reach my desired temperature.
This is a crucial step!! When setting up a thermostat to the proper temperature these are the steps you should follow:
•Set your thermostat for the temperature you are aiming for and let it warm up for 1 hour or so.
•Point your IR Temp gun at the hotspot to read the temperature.
•Adjust your thermostat setting accordingly until you reach the desired temperature inside the enclosure.
This is NOT the Best thermostat for Reptiles!
Unfortunately (at least in my experience), decent thermostats are not often carried in chain pet stores. Considering how vital they are to your reptile’s health I can’t understand why that is the case.
Anyway, most pet stores do carry a device they like to pass off as a thermostat. This device is a Rheostat. These are NOT thermostats! They basically act in the same way as the dimmer switch I described above. They allow you to control your heat source’s power output.
The issue with this is that it has nothing to do with temperature. For example, let’s say you set up your enclosure and find that you get a perfect hotspot of 90° with the rheostat set at the “medium setting.” Now let’s say your room temperature rises the next day unexpectedly… your rheostat is still going to be pumping out heat at a “medium” level, making the hotspot far hotter than your original test. Whereas a thermostat would have clicked off.
In other words, don’t buy a rheostat!
Best Thermostat for Reptiles: Things to Remember
1. You should always be checking your hotspot temperatures manually to ensure everything is functioning properly.
2. Make sure you set up the temperature setting properly. I.e. use an IR temperature gun to establish the correct setting.
3. Remember, the cheaper the thermostat the more likely it will fail but a cheap thermostat is better than no thermostat! Saving up for a high-quality thermostat should be on your list of things to do eventually, especially if your collection starts to grow.
How to train a snake not to bite? Can you tame a snake? How to pick up a snake without it biting you?
Well these are certainly loaded questions as there are many reasons your snake may be trying to take a piece of your hand every time you reach into their enclosure.
In this article I will cover common reasons for snakes biting (mainly bites that take place inside their enclosure) and will show you a simple technique (video) you can use to slowly train your snake not to bite.
Why Snakes Bite
“My snake hates me!” … that may actually be true…
There are a few things that we need to understand first:
1) Your snake does not enjoy being held. I know this can be painful for some to admit. Truthfully, some snakes do tolerate being handled quite well and some do not (really depends on the individual snake and species). However, even the ones that do tolerate being handled do not necessarily enjoy it . Remember, you are just another animal to them.
2) Having said that, I know we can’t resist handling our animals at least a little bit so luckily there are ways we can make sure it is an enjoyable experience for you (no bites!) and a somewhat relaxing experience for the animal. HINT: If your snake is biting you or striking at you, you can bet it is having a stressful experience.
Reasons your snake might bite:
If you are wondering how to train a snake not to bite… you’ll find below that it might be YOU who needs the training and not the snake! Here are some reasons that your snake might be biting and what do to about it.
1) New Arrival/ Environmental Stress:
Give your new snake at least 2-3 weeks in its new home before you handle it (I know it’s hard!). It can take several months for a snake to become comfortable in a new enclosure and adding the stress of handling can easily draw a strike or bite.
General stress can also elicit a strike. For example, if your snake is in a high foot traffic area with lots of noise, etc. it could put the snake in somewhat of a “heightened state”, which could easily lead to a bite. If you have a “biter” in a busy room, I would recommend moving the enclosure to a quieter space to see if that makes a difference.
2) Inadequate Husbandry:
Again, another stress inducer and unfortunately quite a common reason for snake bites in the hobby! This is one of the first questions I would ask someone who is wondering how to train a snake not to bite. If your husbandry is off (wrong temperature, poor humidity/ventilation, food schedule, etc.) it can EASILY make your snake aggressive. Think about it… are you pleasant to be around when you are in discomfort? I know I’m not!
Great husbandry can turn an aggressive snake into a puppy dog and bad husbandry can turn a calm snake into a beast!
3) Going into Shed:
Some (most?) snakes do not like being pestered when they are going through shed. Especially while deep in blue because at this stage they are almost completely blind due to the build up of secretions behind the eye cap.
Make sure you understand the signs of your snake going into shed. Dull appearance, cloudy eyes, normally spending time in their warm hide, etc. As a Rule of Thumb: don’t move your snake while it is in shed, let them be! Messing with a snake in shed is asking for a bite!
A defensive strike is something you snake might do if you are rummaging around in its enclosure for longer than it is comfortable with. Generally this is caused by surprising your snake with your presence in its enclosure (snakes hate surprises).
Your snake will react with a defensive strike if they are under the impression you are a threat. They will strike, bite and recoil before you have blinked.
5) Feed RESPONSE:
I think this one is self explanatory. If you snake thinks your hand is food… good luck! A feed response bite is likely going to be followed with a constriction, which would be a real pain in the a..arm! Apparently running the snake under water will get them to let go…? I have never had it happen so I am no expert!
This is not likely to occur unless your hand smells like your feeder rodents so always remember to was your hands!
Of course there are other reasons your snake may be biting, such as illness or breeding activity but I think those five cover the most common reasons.
How to Train a Snake Not to Bite?
As you can see from the list above, there are quite a few reasons your snake may be trying to bite you. The majority of the reasons have nothing to do with “training a snake not to bite” and everything to do with how you are caring for your animal.
However, we can use the technique of hook training to help reduce or prevent bites from taking place. I have consistently used the method of hook training from the first day I brought my snakes home. To date I have not been bit or even struck at by one of my animals. I certainly attribute this to hook training.
Presently, it seems scientifically uncertain whether or not snakes can learn. In other words, it has not been made clear in any research that I could find that snakes can be successful taught or conditioned. This means hook training may not actually work by technically conditioning the snake to respond to the hook… you’ll have to try it for yourself and see what you think!
What is Hook Training:
Hook training (sometimes called tap training) is a method used to condition your snake when removing them from their enclosure.
Here are the steps:
Buy a snake hook!I don’t recommend one of the cheap “collapsible ZooMed” ones. The one below is very similar to the one I own and honestly it’s not even that expensive. Definitely worth the investment!
Now that you have you snake hook, the rest is very simple.
Open you snake’s enclosure
Reach inside with your hook and give your snake a few taps.
After the snake has been tapped a few times, they can be scooped out of the enclosure with the hook.
After the snake has been removed from their enclosure your snake can be handled freely by hand.
Why does Hook Training Work?
Here is the basic theory behind hook training—
Tapping your snake with your hook accomplishes a few things:
a) It warns the snake that you are there. Since the hook is not emitting a heat signature, your snake is not going to interpret its presence as a threat. This allows you to safely pull the snake out of its enclosure without risk of triggering a defensive strike.
b) By tapping the snake with the hook every time you interact with it (other than feeding) you are conditioning it to understand that the hook means it’s not being fed i.e. you will eliminate any accidental feed response bites.
If you are looking for how to train a snake not to bite, hook training is really your best bet in my opinion.
My Snake Never Bites, Should I still use Hook Training?
My answer is, yes! Even if you have a very docile snake that does not have an issue with being handled I still recommend using hook training.
1) Hook training provides very consistent stimuli for your snake. Your hand is constantly a different temperature, and will have a different scent from day to day. The hook is always the same. This, in my opinion, reduces the stress experienced by the snake every time you pull them from their home.
2) If you have a larger species of snake, you’re going to want to trust that they aren’t going to bite when they are full grown. Hook training will give you the confidence to trust that your animal is not going to bite.
3) Snake bites are hard on the snake! Quite often snakes will loose teeth when they bite their humans. This is usually caused by the human pulling their hand away quickly, teeth stick in the skin and rip out. Try not pulling your hand away when being struck at…. good luck!
My Snake is Still Biting!
Be patient! It can take a lot of time to calm down a nervous snake. Every day is a new day, if your snake was on the nasty side today… try again tomorrow! Your snake is not going to hold a grudge against you (even if it seems like it), every day is a fresh start.
How to clean a snake tank? Well there is definitely more than one way to do this but I will layout the way I go about it and the reasons why!
SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR A FREE SNAKE CARE LOGBOOK!
Spot Clean or Full Tank Clean?
Spot Clean: When people use the term “spot clean” they essentially mean they remove feces & waste when the see it. Basically the same thing you see people do with their dogs when they take dumps in the park.
During a typical spot clean, the owner scoops out the waste (and usually some of the substrate) throws it out and moves on to the next enclosure. This is a quick method for removing waste, especially if you have many animals to clean.
People who subscribe to this method normally do a full tank clean every few weeks so they can wipe down the floor, and replace the substrate etc. as spot cleaning does not normally take care of all the waste (especially urates).
Full Tank Clean: The other common way people clean their snake’s tank is by doing a full clean. In other words, they pull everything out (animal, decor, water dish, etc), throw all the old substrate out, and then sanitize the floor and the walls. Once clean, they re-add fresh substrate, decor and of course the animal!
This method is common for tanks with a paper towel or newspaper substrate because the urates are not contained very well i.e. snake pee tends to spread out over a larger foot print.
So what is the better of the two methods? In my opinion: neither!
How to Clean a Snake Tank-The Hybrid Method:
The method I use is a combination of both a “spot clean” and a “full clean.” First, let’s take a look at the reasons I don’t like the spot clean and full clean methods.
Why I Don’t Spot Clean:
Urates tend to remain in the enclosure. Feces are very easy to scoop up in a spot clean but urates (snake urine, which is both solid white clumps and liquid) are harder to pick up because the liquid seeps into the surrounding substrate.
This can leave the offensive smell of snake urine inside the enclosure. This is a very bad smell. If you’ve ever been to a reptile breeder or pet shop that doesn’t do a good job cleaning, the smell of snake pee will hit you like a truck when you walk into the door. I do not want my office smelling that way (the room I keep my snakes).
There are a few reasons why I don’t like to do a full clean of my snake enclosures every time they defecate. The first (and less important of the two) is to save time and money, doing a full cleaning takes more time and you end up going through way more substrate because you replace all the bedding every time you clean.
The real reason I don’t like doing a full cleaning is because I think it is important to keep the snake’s environment as consistent as possible. Snakes are very sensitive to their environment, especially due to their powerful sense of smell. Drastically changing a snakes environment can actually induce a stress response in the animal.
Think of it this way— your snake has been crawling and borrowing all over its substrate and decor for weeks, it becomes familiar with the smells of the enclosure. I also think (me speculating) that the animal itself emits its own body odor throughout the enclosure, an odor which that maybe we can’t perceive but it can. In other words, its enclosure “smells like home.”
When you perform a full clean, you completely strip all of that away in one fell swoop. This thrusts the animal into a brand new environment, an environment it has not explored (even if it looks the same, it doesn’t smell the same), an environment that may not be safe. Hence a stress response. Take a listen to this HerpNation Podcast @ 45:10 ,the whole podcast is good but the 45 minute mark discusses this in more detail.
In my opinion, the “hybrid” method I use is best of both worlds. It removes all the urates, removing the pee smell and allows most of the substrate to remain in the enclosure to hopefully keep environment slightly more familiar to the animal.
Remove feces, urates and substrate! I ONLY remove the substrate that falls within about a 8-10″ radius around where the waste was found. Essentially I am trying to remove all substrate that has absorbed any of the urine.
Once I am left with only unsoiled substrate, I push what is left over to the sides of the enclosure.
Next, I spray the area down with the 10% bleach solution. I let the solution sit for 10-15 minutes to give it time to kill any bacteria.
Then I wipe up the bleach!
Once the bleach is wiped up, I then mist the whole area down again but this time with fresh water. The idea here is that the water is absorbing any leftover bleach solution that remains on the floor of the enclosure.
Once I wipe up the water, I try my best to use my nose to determine if I can either still smell urine, or bleach. If I don’t smell either, I move on!
Time to replace the soiled substrate with fresh substrate!
Once the new substrate is in, decor can also be re-added!
This is a crucial step in my opinion! I know not everyone is going to do this but I highly recommend keeping a logbook. I have attached a PDF copy of the logbook I made and use below. Download it, print it and use it if you like!
Snake care is not complicated, but a lot of the care is “few and far between,” especially feeding and cleaning. A logbook just makes your life easier, and allows you to maintain healthier animals.
After every defecation I always weigh my snakes. Waiting until after they have defecated will allow you to get a more accurate weight, as you will be weighing close to “empty.”
A healthy snake should be always gaining or maintaining their weight (give or take). Of course if you are breeding your animals they will be subject to weight changes but generally you are looking for any unexpected changes in weight. An animal that is loosing weight unexpectedly could be ill, and if that is the case I would consider taking them in to see a vet.
Here is a snapshot of my logbook. First I write in the date, then the weight of the snake, next to the weight in brackets I right how much weight was gained or lost, then I will make a note regarding the waste itself (eg. usually I put an, “N”= normal, but if I notice anything strange or different I will jot that down instead), and finally I put another number in brackets indicating how many days since last defecation.
The particular example above the animal actually lost weight but if you look at the line above you will see why. The day before the snake produced urates only and when I weighed him he was still holding on to 50g of feces.
Question: What is the best substrate for ball pythons (or for any snake for that matter)?
In this article I am going to give my review and opinion on 5 different substrate options you could use for your ball python, boa, corn snake, king snake, etc.
I am all about NATURAL SUBSTRATES! The best substrate for ball pythons in my opinion is either aspen or coconut husk. If you own a different species of snake, you may find another substrate on this page to be beneficial.
Here are the 5 Snake Substrates I review in the article:
What is the Best Substrate for Ball Pythons and Other Captive Snakes- VIDEO:
Brands/ Where to Buy:
The most common brand available is Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding.There are other brands of “pet” aspen bedding widely available as well but the nice thing about the Zoo Med product is it is designed for snake use.
The issue with “general use” aspen bedding, i.e. bedding that is made for rodents, birds, etc. is that the chips are much larger (could potentially lead to digestion issues if swallowed), and they tend to be quite dusty.
Zoo Med Aspen Snake Beddingis “double shredded” for smaller chips (can safely pass through digestive system if they happen to ingested, this needs to still be avoided!) and they have also removed all of the dust!
Aspen has a nice, natural “woody” scent
It absorbs waste well
Its texture and size make it a great substrate for burrowing animals
It is very light in color— this may seem like a random “pro” so let me explain. The light color makes it very easy to spot your snakes waste in the enclosure. Spot checking is much quicker with aspen when compared to darker substrates (the waste sticks out like a sore thumb!)
Messy! No matter how careful you are… you will need to vacuum or sweep your floor on cleaning day. The light weight aspen will find its way to the floor no matter what!
If aspen is left damp for a long period of time it will grow mold
Aspen is often considered the best substrate for ball pythons, boas, corn snakes, king snakes, hognose… well pretty much any kind of snake! This is totally subjective but I definitely recommend trying it out to see what you think! This is a great substrate if you are looking for something natural looking (and smelling) and will give your animal something to burrow through.
I would only advice against using it in very humid enclosures, for example I wouldn’t use it for my Brazilian Rainbow boa.
Brands/ Where to Buy:
There are many different brands of coconut husk available on the market, and it really comes down to your personal preference. A few of the popular pet brands are:
Repti-Chip(I have not tired Repti-Chip but I always hear it advertised on Herp Nation Radio)
This substrate is highly absorbent! It does a great job of not only absorbing liquids but also smells too.
Like most coconut products, coconut husk is anti-bacteria/microbial meaning you do not need to worry about mold growing on the substrate.
Coconut husk is made of fairly large “chips”. Because of this I am always extra careful when feeding my snakes on this substrate, as swallowing a large piece of substrate could cause digestive issues. On occasion one of my animals will ingest some coconut husk… It has never caused a problem but I still try and avoid it.
Due to its size it in not the best substrate for burrowing
I highly recommend coconut husk as a snake substrate for pretty much any snake you own (ball python, boa, corn, etc.). Is it the best substrate for ball pythons or other snakes? Again, it is up to personal preference. I love coconut husk and it is pretty much all I use for my boas (although right now they are on a aspen/coconut husk mix). Here is a reason you might not want to use it:
Due to its coconut husk’s color and amazing ability to absorb smells and waste it can actually make spot checking a little more challenging as your snakes waste is camouflaged better (both visually and scent-wise). Now this is hardly a “con” but it you have many animals to check on, you might gravitate towards a lighter color substrate (such as aspen) so you can more easily see your snakes waste.
Brands/ Where to Buy:
The only brand of cypress mulch I have found locally is Zoo Med Forest Floor, although you might be able to find better deals on Amazonfor other popular brands. You can also find cypress mulch at your local gardening store but make sure it contains CYPRESS MULCH ONLY, some contain pine and cedar chips which are toxic to your animal.
Cypress mulch is the go-to substrate if you need a bump in your humidity. When cypress mulch is bagged it begins to go through a decomposition process, this process releases moisture from the wood chips. You will notice when you first open a fresh bag, the chips are very damp.
Luckily cypress mulch is very resistant to mold growth so the heavy moisture level is not an issue.
Initially, cypress mulch will induce a humidity spike in your enclosure. Although, over time cypress mulch will dry out. After that you can mist down cypress mulch every few days to try and re-hydrate it, as it holds onto moisture quite well…although it will never be as wet as it is right out of the bag.
I would not consider cypress mulch as an ideal burrowing substrate as it is not easily dug through (without feet and claws that is!).
The chips size is variable but some pieces are very large, and rather sharp. This is another substrate I am very careful when feeding on.
Cypress mulch is not the best substrate for ball pythons, as most likely it would provide more humidity than you require. However, cypress mulch is a fantastic substrate for other snakes, especially humidity living animals such as rainbow boas.
This is another GREAT smelling substrate too, it will give your animal’s enclosure a nice “woody” scent and provides some awesome environmental enrichment.
Brands/ Where to Buy:
Coconut fiber is the last natural substrate I am covering in this article. The brand I use is Eco Earth Loose Coconut Substrate. You can find it in both a “loose” form and “compressed” form. The loose stuff is definitely easier to work with as the compressed stuff needs to be soaked first. This is another subsrate you may be able to find in a gardening store: Kempf Compressed Coco Fiber.
Due to coconut fibers “soil like” texture it makes for a great burrowing substrate!
Again, just like coconut husk, coconut fiber is highly absorbent of snake waste (including smell).
Its high surface area allows it to retain much more moisture than coconut husk
This is a messy substrate! When it is dry it gets everywhere and is actually quite dusty which is a definite downside.
This is a snake substrate that I would again reserve for animals that require higher humidity, i.e. I wouldn’t rank it as the best substrate for ball pythons, and would actually recommend against using it for any snake that doesn’t require elevated humidity. Again it is quite messy and retains quite a lot of moisture. Used on its own is usually more work that its worth (gets in water dishes etc.) although, I have come up with a good solution:
I am currently using a blend of cypress mulchand Eco Earth for my Brazilian Rainbow boa. I find the cypress mulch contains the mess of the Eco Earth and the Eco Earth allows for more opportunity to burrow than the cypress mulch would have to offer on its own.
PAPER TOWEL/ NEWSPAPER
Paper towel and newspaper are probably the most frequent substrate recommendations, however, are they actually the best substrate for ball pythons or other snakes?
I think NOT! Although they can still play an important role in your animal’s care.
There are two scenarios (actually maybe 3) when I would consider paper towel to be the best substrate for ball pythons and other captive snakes. The scenarios are:
Each of these scenarios require you as the caregiver to observe your animal more closely and more carefully. Eliminating the variable of substrate can be highly beneficial when monitoring an animal’s health.
If you are not using paper towel in one of the 3 scenarios listed above, I highly recommend against using it!
Paper towel provides no enrichment for your animal. They can’t dig through it, burrow under it, or smell it. When they slither over it, it provides zero environmental feed back.
Many claim paper towel/ newspaper to be the “easiest” and “quickest” substrate to use, clean and maintain. I totally disagree with that! Unlike the natural substrates listed above, paper towel allows for urates and waste to spread across a much larger area as it is not capable of absorbing as much liquid.
I find the mess from your snake’s waste is much less contained (smell included!) and requires a much larger clean up.
All in all it is a boring substrate to use. As animal owners we can do much more to provide a more enriching environment for our captive animals! There is plenty of research showing, environmental enrichment leads to healthier animals… I find that very easy to believe, I hope you do too!
So you are looking into getting a crested gecko? Awesome!
Crested geckos are a fantastic choice, especially if you are new to the hobby. In this article, am not going to cover specific crested gecko care, instead, I want to focus your choices for a crested gecko cage!
NOTE: I will only be discussing crested gecko cage options intended for housing a single gecko. In my opinion housing, more than one gecko together is asking for problems down the road. Unless, of course, you are planning to breed… in which case I can offer no advice as I have not ventured down that branch of the hobby.
A few things to keep in mind:
Crested geckos are arboreal, their terrariums should be tall rather than wide
The minimum crested gecko cage size is 12″ x 12″ x 18″ although I believe a full grow adult should be kept in something at least 18″x 18″ x 24″.
Store bought terrariums are really a great option! There are two main brands: Exo-Terraand Zoo Med.Both brands carry terrariums with dimensions 12″ x 12″ x 18″ and a 18″ x 18″ x 24″ (L x W x H), which are typical dimensions for young and adult crested geckos. Click on the pictures to learn more about each one.
These terrariums are great, they are ready to go out of the box and designed for exactly what you need. They have ample ventilation, a bottom glass tray to hold substrate, and front opening doors for easy access (the doors are equipped with a simple locking mechanism as well).
Many of them are sold as “starter kits” as well so they will include a nice background and usually some decor.
These terrariums will be your most expensive option for your crested gecko cage but the price is more than worth the quality. I have used the same Exo-Terra terrarium FOR OVER A DECADE and it’s in the same space as when I bought it!
Before going to your local pet store just out the prices on Amazon first! I have noticed Amazon is usually cheaper than chain pet stores ESPECIALLY if you have Amazon Prime (how can you beat FREE shipping?). Quite often you’ll find small pet stores using Amazon to liquidate extra stock… that’s where you’ll find the best deals.
I only have experience with the Exo-Terra models but I believe there is very little difference. Although one definite difference to keep in mind is the Zoo Med terrariums come with one door and the Exo-Terra terrariums have two doors… french door style. I prefer the two door system because it is allows you to only have a portion of the cage open at once.
If you are someone who would like to save some cash you can use a modified aquarium! The key word there is ‘MODIFIED’, a aquarium setup in its typical “fish tank” orientation is an unacceptable setup for a crested gecko cage. Remember, your crested gecko cage needs to be tall, not long.
You can usually find cheap aquariums on your local classifieds. You’ll want to look for:
A 10 Gallon Tank for juveniles
A 20 Gallon Long Tank for Adults
Once you find an acceptable aquarium (If you bought it second hand, I think it goes without saying… give it a GOOD cleaning), you have two good options to convert it to a terrarium.
The first is the simplest and that is to stand the tank up in an upright position (in its tallest orientation) and purchase a screen cover that fits the correct dimensions of your tank (click the picture to learn more):
The second options is more hands on. There are plenty of YouTube videos explaining how to convert an aquarium into a terrarium but SepraDesign probably does the most thorough job:
DIY Crested Gecko Cage
The third option for a crested gecko cage is to Do-It-Yourself! Now there are many different ways this can be done. I will share two that I have used (for different species) that would work quite well for crested geckos.
The first is converting a piece of furniture or a display cabinet into a terrarium. You can find that article HEREand the video below:
The second is using old plate glass to build your own terrarium and then proceed with a similar method as SepraDesgin used to convert and aquarium into a terrarium. That article is HEREand the video is below (if I had built this for a crested gecko I would have built it in a vertical orientation):
At the end of the day you should choose the option that works best for you. As a goal you should try and include as much natural enrichment in the enclosure as you can safely maintain.
Live plants, real-natural substrate (over paper towel, etc.) and climbing branches are a great way to enrich your crested gecko cage.
If you are looking to add real climbing branches from outside, please read THIS ARTICLEor watch the video below: